American foreign policy Americans for Peace Now Ehud Olmert Gaza Strip Hamas Israel Palestinians

What to do about the Gaza Strip emergency…

In the last thread, Richard Witty asked what I thought of Israel’s behavior in the Gaza Strip and what I would do about the situation. My response was, “I haven’t the faintest idea.” But Americans for Peace Now just released a statement that makes a lot of sense. You will also find an “Action Alert” on their website.

One praiseworthy aspect of the APN statement is that it doesn’t just deal with diplomatic and military issues. It also says the collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza is just plain wrong. The writers even dare to use a variant of the “M-word” (morality): “This tragedy must be reversed, not as a concession to Hamas, but because it is the right thing to do, both morally and strategically.”

We need more public, clear-cut objections from the pro-Israel left when either side –Israelis or Palestinians –deliberately makes innocent people suffer for the sake of murky diplomatic goals, especially if the perpetrator of the suffering knows full well its actions probably won’t help to achieve those goals. Who is the “we” that needs such objections? The Jewish people, first and foremost.

The statement also has no patience for the rejectionists who are hurling rockets into southern Israel or the kidnappers of Gilad Shalit. That is noteworthy only because a quick scan of the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist blogosphere reveals no compassion for the people of Sderot or the parents of Gilad Shalit and places all blame for the situation in Gaza at Israel’s feet. That is, of course, as offensive as ignoring Palestinian suffering.

And what about APN’s diplomatic proposal? All I can say is that I haven’t heard any better ideas:

“In recent days, the world has seen images of Gazans struggling to cope with a lack of fuel and electricity and an acute shortage of other supplies. This week, the world media is flooded with images of huge numbers of Gazans crossing the Egyptian border to purchase basic goods and necessities. Clearly, Israeli efforts to pressure Hamas by clamping down on Gaza, efforts condoned by the U.S., have resulted in increased desperation and misery for the people of Gaza. Wednesday’s breach of the Egypt-Gaza border is a tangible consequence of this desperation and a disastrous development for Israel in terms of both security and its image in the world.

“The firing of rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza into Israel must end. APN and its Israeli sister organization, Peace Now, have repeatedly expressed solidarity with the residents of Israeli communities near Gaza who are suffering from such attacks. The government of Israel has the right – indeed, the obligation – to take measures to bring these attacks to a halt, as well as to seek to free its captured soldier Gilad Shalit.

“APN has also consistently held that Israel should avoid actions that constitute collective punishment or cause disproportionate suffering or casualties among civilians. Such actions are fundamentally wrong and ultimately counterproductive. It is equally wrong and counterproductive for the U.S. to condone such actions. The dramatic deterioration in the health and welfare of civilians in Gaza over the past year represents an entirely man-made, and entirely avoidable, humanitarian tragedy. This tragedy must be reversed, not as a concession to Hamas, but because it is the right thing to do, both morally and strategically.

“By now it should be clear that the policy of placing Gaza under siege is succeeding neither in stopping Qassam fire, nor in ousting Hamas. Tactics of this nature have been tried and have failed, repeatedly. Rather than continue down this disastrous path, Israel, with the support and urging of the U.S., should forge a more responsible, constructive, and far-sighted way forward in terms of both its tactics and strategy for Gaza.

“This new way forward should include ending the blockade of Gaza. It should also include urgent diplomatic efforts to address the security challenges associated with Gaza. In particular, Israel should explore the possibility of achieving understandings with Hamas to end the violence, including a ceasefire or a “hudna,” either through direct contacts or via third parties, including President Abbas. Such an option has been embraced to various degrees by key Israeli military and security figures, including former national security advisor (to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon) Giora Eiland, former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, and former defense minister Shaul Mofaz.

“A ceasefire or hudna cannot be an end unto itself. A ceasefire or hudna is desirable as a means to halt violence and chaos in the immediate term, creating the space to facilitate improvements in the humanitarian situation and the establishment of a political process. In this way, it can allow the sides to avoid the re-emergence of violence in the longer term. Such a process could involve, as appropriate, the major relevant players: Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and Egypt. Absent improvements in the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the establishment of a political process, any ceasefire or hudna risks becoming merely an intermission to allow those attacking Israel to re-arm, re-trench, and enhance their military capability for future attacks.

“Similarly, it is vital that order and security be restored along the Egypt-Gaza border. This will require cooperation and coordination, including between Egypt and Israel, whose Camp David treaty governs military operations and deployments in the border area. Absent such coordination and cooperation, or absent accompanying improvements in the humanitarian situation inside Gaza, efforts to address the border situation will likely fail, with predictable results.”

What y’all think?

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